So, you have been through high school and had just enough education that you know you do not want to be a subsistence farmer like your father and grandfather and his father. Nor do you want to get married and have lots of children, at least not yet. But you don’t have any money or any income except what your father gives you. The education you had was quite old fashioned and it taught you a lot of ‘stuff’ but did not give you the skills you need for life. Now you sit and worry about your life. You are certainly not going to aspire to lead.
Working in partnership with a Ghanaian NGO called Youth Empowerment for Life Tzedek has been piloting a project with a group of just 16 youths in Nyankpala, one of the larger towns in Tolon District. YEfL has had a lot of experience in working with Ghanaian youth and have developed a three-pronged approach. First, we help them find a realistic way of earning a living that reflects the skills and resources that they can access. Typically this will be small scale trading, a small livestock enterprise, becoming a mobile money agent, etc. Secondly, we want them to engage with their communities and start feeling part of the decision-making process. Thirdly we want them to be active politically. Not standing for office necessarily, but claiming their rights, holding officers to account, challenging poor decision making. We want them to become young leaders.
This is a year-long process and requires a mixture of group training sessions, workshops as well as individual mentoring. It is relatively expensive, not only because of the intensity of the training but because the funding includes a small seed fund, of around £150 each, to help them start their business. The commitment required from the individuals is also large. They give up all their Saturdays for training and meetings, work at their businesses without initially getting paid and they also worked for three weeks with UK volunteers to deliver a summer school camp for local children.
The project is still not complete, and the final outcomes are not yet measured but what is clear is that the attitudes of the youth are changing. They learned skills and confidence from working with children and UK youth leaders. They are proud of their fledgeling businesses and their small successes. They are engaging with their communities and attending rallies and events. Speaking up when just a year ago they would have remained silent.